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Working as a modern day alchemist

Natural Sciences graduate Mike Hutton tells us about his role as a metallurgist at the engineering firm Hatch in Perth, Australia.

Mike studies the science of turning rocks into metals
Natural Sciences graduate Mike Hutton at Hatch in Perth, Australia
‘Studying natural science allowed me to learn things I wanted to learn and figure out for myself what interested me.’
Mike Hutton, Process Engineer at Hatch

I am a metallurgist which involves studying the science of turning rocks into metals, just like a modern day alchemist. My role as Process Engineer at Hatch involves creating process-engineering documents for mining companies to help design and understand their core processing facilities.

Putting chemistry into action

The thing I enjoy the most about my job is that it is chemistry in action. Applying all the things I learnt at school and university and finally bringing them together is very rewarding. For example, to design the process that will end up taking lithium out of a rock in the ground to put into a car battery.

One of the great things about my role is that days are never typical. I could be responsible for two or three different projects at a time. All will have different goals and problems so priorities can change in seconds.

From natural sciences to the mining industry

Chemistry has always been a passion of mine, but I was unsure how to turn that into a career after my degree. It was after I attended a presentation at Bath about metallurgy and mineral processing in the mining industry, that I decided to apply for a Masters in Mineral Processing and start my journey into the mining industry. The idea of manipulating the chemistry of the minerals in rocks to produce the necessities of everyday life captivated me.

An inquisitive nature

Natural Sciences is a fantastic degree as it allowed me to be me. I learnt the things I wanted to learn and figure out for myself what interested me. If I didn’t study Natural Sciences, I might have lost that inquisitive nature and I doubt I would be where I am today.

My advice to students

Natural Sciences does not set you up for a career in the same way that law or medicine does. You need to be more creative in how you apply what you learn during the Natural Sciences course to form your own career. For many that will mean doing further study in order to specialise in something, which is by no means a bad thing.

Enjoy the journey!

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